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Ways to Communicate if Mom or Dad Have Dementia

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Communication and Dementia

 Your Approach Sets the Tone

  • Do an environmental scan as you enter the room. What emotional vibes do you feel?
  • Treat the person with respect and dignity
  • Kindness, compassion, patience and reassurance are key
  • Think about how you are presenting yourself.
  • Try a calm, gentle, matter of fact approach
  • Use humor, gentle cajoling and cheerfulness
  • Approach slowly and from the front. Do not surprise the person
  • Pay attention to your tone of voice and body language
  • Remember to respond to feelings rather than words or behavior

When you Speak

  • Begin your conversations with orienting information. Identify yourself and address the person by his/her name.
  • Look directly at the person and make sure you have their attention
  • Be at eye level
  • Gentle touch can be very effective
  • Keep the pitch of your voice low and do not shout
  • Speak slowly and say words clearly
  • Use short simple sentences
  • Avoid pronouns and confusing expressions.
  • Use concrete terms and familiar words
  • Try not to quiz
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Ask simple questions that require a choice of “YES “ or “NO”
  • Give one step directions
  • Allow plenty of time for comprehension
  • Use repetition and reminders
  • Write things down afterwards.

 When You are Having Trouble Understanding the Person

  • Listen carefully to what the person is trying to say
  • Try to focus on a word or phrase that makes sense
  • Ask person to point or demonstrate what she is trying to say
  • Offer a guess as to what he/she is trying to say.
  • Respond to the emotional tone of what the person is trying to say
  • Ask family or colleagues about the possible meaning of words
  • Be patient and calm

If Conversations or Activities are not Working

  • Stop
  • Give the person a hug and change the subject
  • Try distraction to a different task or activity: Do something relaxing and known to be enjoyable
  • Accept the blame when something goes wrong
  • Leave the room before getting into a confrontation.

Things NOT to do

  • Do not argue
  • Do not criticize or say person is wrong or incorrect
  • Do not remind person of things that he/she forgot
  • Do not ask a lot of questions that rely on a good memory
  • Do not talk about the person as if he/she is not there
  • Do not take things personally

Memory Aids

  • Provide verbal cues (using your best communication skills)
  • Provide written cues
  • Use reminder notes
  • If person receives a phone call, after the call ask who called and help person write a reminder note
  • Keep a calendar:  Where it can be seen and large enough to read.
  • Have a large clock in the room. Some newer clocks have the day and date.
  • Keep photos, especially of family and other important people
  • Keep things in the same place as much as possible

Resources:

  1. Alzheimer’s Association education materials
  2. Understanding Difficult Behaviors by Anne Robinson, Beth Spencer and Laurie White.
  3. Years of experience of Darby Duke RN, BSN,PHN, CCM and Pat Goehner MSN

 

© Copyright Reserved, Eldercare Specialists, LLC, May 2009 Version 1.0